“When A Soul Turns Back to God”
Grace is amazing. I have committed sins. God gives me his love and favor even though I don’t deserve it. He asks me to give him my complete devotion, admit and turn away from things he despises, and to try to do his work even as a I fall again and again. He doesn’t just forgive me, he forgets that it ever took place.
He tells his disciples to forgive an infinite number of times (Matthew 18). He looks at an adulterous woman, makes the crowds examine their own motives, forgives the woman and tells her not to sin again (John 8). He sees the masses crucifying him and asks God to forgive them (Luke 23). He emphasizes the need to examine our own sin (Matthew 7), rejoice when someone comes back to us from sin (Luke 15), help those in sin to find a path out. He tells us not to heap undue burden on them—and to make sure we restore them with meekness and gentleness, making sure we don’t sin as we do this (Galatians 6).
Then there’s me. I love God’s forgiveness when it’s directed at me. However, when someone else sins, especially against me, I tend to abandon God’s guidance on forgiveness. I am hurt. I want justice. Grace and mercy are fine concepts but when my spouse cheats on me or one of my friends betray me, righteous indignation takes over. I am likely to lash out and justify it based on what my brother, sister, spouse, son, daughter, or friend did to me or someone I love. I appeal to the high intensity of emotion as justification. John the Baptist does tell us to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance” as an expression of our love for what God has done for us, but not as a measuring stick by which we are to judge others. Matthew 7 makes it clear we need to be careful lest the judgment criteria we use be used on us.
God has a name for this conduct—he calls it sin. Forgiveness is a core principle for Christians. We who don’t practice it, no matter the reason, are sinning. We can repent and be forgiven of that sin. However, in our human wisdom we are more likely to justify the anger and make excuses for the behavior. This runs especially high where adultery is concerned. Betrayal has taken place. The sin has been committed. It’s a horrible thing. It can have terrible consequences. When the offending spouse turns from that behavior and asks for forgiveness, God forgets it ever happened. In most cases I have seen, forgiveness is not what the offended spouse, his or her family, and close friends offer the repentant soul. No, they dole out disappointment, judgment, and condemnation in perpetuity. When does God ever teach that? God doesn’t ever teach that.
Here are five forgiveness principles to hold onto when a brother or sister in Christ sins and repents of that sin:
- Remember the forgiveness extended to you. Read Romans 5-8 again and again until you fully embrace the enormity of grace, peace, and forgiveness has extended to you. You’ll find there’s no room for righteous indignation.
- Be gentle, kind, and humble with the one who has repented. Don’t let the weight of repented sin crush their spirit and service to the King. Galatians 6 and II Corinthians 5 can help guide you.
- Welcome them back into your company. There is no partial status in God’s kingdom. There shouldn’t be any partial status as fellow heirs in Christ within local assemblies either. John 8 gave no conditions to God’s forgiveness—we shouldn’t give any for ours either.
- Rejoice with the one who’s returned to God. Luke 15 gives us some great guidance on this when he talks about the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son.
- Stop making excuses and repent when you commit the sin of judgment and a hard heart. We’re not perfect. Keeping the mind of God is hard when you have been wronged. However, call it what it is—it is sin. Don’t make excuses. Repent of the sin and rejoice again that God has forgiven you.
Satan is powerful. But he’s nothing compared with God. Don’t let Satan fool you into having an unforgiving spirit no matter what the circumstance. Don’t use worldly wisdom to justify bad behaviors and a hard-hearted, sinful spirit. Remember the inspired word of James, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:27).
May God bless all of you who bow your knee to the King.